A reveler tosses trinkets off a Mardi Gras float as a past Shadow Barons parade rolls through Daphne, Ala. The city of Daphne is looking to update its 19-year-old ordinance that regulates what kind of throws are allowed and prohibited during the parades. (file photo).
More than 19 years ago, the Daphne City Council wrote up new rules prohibiting “foreign-made” MoonPies from being tossed by revelers off a Mardi Gras float. Lash Glue Pen
Daphne city leaders, in 2003, had no idea what a foreign MoonPie was at the time. Executives at the Chattanooga Bakery – the Tennessee-based company where MoonPies are made – were left “roaring” over the false notion that international MoonPies existed, according to Press-Register archives.
But the restriction remained. To this date, MoonPies “made outside the United States,” are not allowed to be tossed from a Mardi Gras float in Daphne.
The Daphne City Council is quietly moving forward in adopting changes to its Mardi Gras ordinance that no longer mentions MoonPies made outside of the U.S. as a prohibited throw during the Carnival parades.
Other changes to the ordinance addressing Mardi Gras throws prohibits anything weighing over 2 pounds from being tossed off a float.
Among other prohibited items would be glass products, sharp objects, frozen candy bars, alcoholic beverages and wooden items excluding doubloons.
Mayor Robin LeJeune said the changes are merely a “clean up” of an existing ordinance that lists items that are permitted and prohibited from being tossed off floats during the annual Carnival parades. It will likely be voted on during the council’s November 7 meeting.
The city hosts three parades – Apollo’s Mystic Ladies, The Shadow Barons, and Loyal Order of the Fire Truck. Daphne first began hosting Mardi Gras parades in 2002.
“The ordinances, when they were done, were vague,” LeJeune said. “What we’re trying to do now is clean it up so the organizations know what to do and we can correct them if they do something wrong.”
A violation to the city’s ordinances can lead to a fine between $50 to $500 or up to six months in jail. Punishment is at the discretion of a judge.
Daphne City Clerk Candace Antinarella said she initiated the cleanup of the Mardi Gras ordinance, and a few other unrelated city ordinances, to make them more “clear and up-to-date.”
She added, “There was no other motive.”
Order of Venus, Miracle On the Bay and Order of Many Faces parade during Mardi Gras on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, in downtown Mobile, Ala. (Mike Kittrell/AL.com)
LeJeune said the changes to the ordinance – specifically, the ban on items weighing 2 pounds or more -- are not related to the few violent occasions that occurred along parade routes during last year’s Mardi Gras.
On more than one occasion, people took to social media to post incidences of injuries sustained after someone was hit by a throw.
Related story: Metal containers, scissors, bags of beads at 100 mph: When ‘Throw me something mister’ turns violent at Mardi Gras
One of those cases occurred during the Shadow Barons parade and generated some media attention after a woman wrote on Facebook about her experiences of suffering an eye injury after being struck by a throw.
Other incidences happened in Mobile, where reports of scissors and other dangerous throws were tossed off floats.
Mobile, unlike Daphne, does not have an ordinance in place that defines what is allowed to be tossed off a float. Mobile does, however, ban plastic confetti from being toss off floats as part of an ordinance that was approved in 2018, according to Elizabeth Stevens, president & CEO with the Downtown Mobile Alliance.
Daphne is the only known city in coastal Alabama with an ordinance that specifically regulates Mardi Gras throws.
“I think it (the ordinance changes) make it clear and safer for our citizens,” LeJeune said. “Our organizations in Daphne do a great job in making the parades family friendly events and preach that it’s for the city.”
Lawrence Battiste, the city of Mobile’s executive director of public safety, said there is no effort to regulate what kind of throws are prohibited or allowed during the city’s Carnival celebrations. Mobile, which boasts the nation’s oldest Mardi Gras, hosts the pre-Lenten parades continuously for almost two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday.
“How do we police that?” asked Battiste, with a chuckle.
He said that Mobile has had better successes in dealing with problematic revelers by working directly with the induvial mystic societies that put on the parades.
“They will address the problem much quicker than our courts do,” said Battiste. “Gaining compliance through working with the organizations tends to work better for us.”
Said Battiste, “When we go to the Mardi Gras organizations, they take swift actions, fine them immediately and tell them they cannot ride again next year. Those things happen immediately.”
Battiste, however, said if the number of incidences rise, the city could reconsider its stance.
“There are a small number of cases,” he said, referring to people who are struck and injured by throws. “But if our numbers increase with incidences (police have to report) then we’ll take another look at it.”
The MAMGA Mammoth Parade rolls Fat Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in Mobile, Ala. (Mike Kittrell/AL.com)
A few incidences did generate attention last year, including one that occurred after 64-year-old Mike Bailey – who was standing along a parade route outside The Garage on Washington Avenue – was struck in the face by a bag of beads while he was taking a picture of one of the floats.
The impact knocked him out, and his story prompted an on-line petition seeking a “Safer Mardi Gras.” It never generated much traction, and only 103 people signed it.
Bryan Fuenmayor of Mobile organized the effort in hopes of, among other things, having the council impose a weight limit on throws like what Daphne city officials are contemplating.
Fuenmayor, reached last week, said he has not thought much about the petition since he posted it last spring.
“Mardi Gras season is coming up and it’s not a bad idea to take a look at the ordinance and see (what kind of extra precautions can be made),” said Fuenmayor.
Wayne Dean, a Mardi Gras historian who has long portrayed the beloved “Slacabamarinico” character during the Carnival season, said he is unsure how Mardi Gras throws can be regulated.
“A pack of beads, if it’s a heavy bead, will exceed (2 pounds) and I don’t know how you enforce that without weighing each 12 pack of beads,” said Dean. “It would be hard to figure out whether one weighed 2-1/2 pounds or one that didn’t.”
Dean said he cannot think of one single item that he’s thrown over the years weighing more than 2 pounds.
The Daphne ordinance’s 2-pound restriction would not apply to hard items that are tossed at Mardi Gras parades in Mobile like a package of Ramen noodles or frozen packages of Conecuh sausage, which typically weigh around 1 pound.
Antinarella said that frozen foods are prohibited under the newest ordinance.
Dean said the biggest concern is of parade watchers not paying attention and getting hit by a wayward bead.
“If someone tosses a single pair of beads hard enough, and it hits you in a vulnerable area like the head, it can cause a gash and enough to draw blood,” he said. “Even a doubloon, if tossed hard and hits someone just right, can do some damage. And they don’t weigh 2-1/2 pounds.”
Daphne City Councilman Ron Scott said he believes the changes are an effort by Daphne officials to “get ahead of” the coming Mardi Gras season and ensure that the city is being responsible.
Daphne city officials close the city’s Main Street during the Mardi Gras parades, which begin at the Daphne Civic Center and traverse along the street past City Hall and around College Avenue before returning to the Civic Center along the same route.
Antinarella said one of the biggest changes was to allow for wooden doubloons – a trinket tossed by revelers -- while prohibiting all other wooden objects.
The proposed chances to city ordinance restate what are allowed as traditional Mardi Gras throws – beads, soft stuffed toys, frisbees, stemmed roses, serpentine, etc.
The proposed 2022 ordinance does not include any prohibitions to tossing moon pies or other treats made outside the U.S. But the ordinance does allow “moon pies made in the United States and single wrapped” to be tossed.
As the ordinance states, “this includes Party Pies, Oatmeal, Doughnuts, and other similar type cakes.”
The proposed changes prohibit the following:
This story was updated at 12:15 p.m. on Monday, October 31, 2022, to state that the city of Mobile has an ordinance that disallows the throwing of plastic confetti from floats during Mardi Gras.
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